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Demystifying Customer Experience

I was recently asked to clarify some service industry terminology that’s being used, often interchangeably, to describe customer experience. Being that clarification often results from examining definitions, let’s start there. And since this is my blog, I’ll submit my own definitions:

  • Customer service is a voluntary act that demonstrates a genuine desire to satisfy, if not delight, a customer.
  • Customer experience (CX) is the product of any interaction between an organization and a customer.
  • Customer experience management (CEM) is the art and science of coaxing lifetime customer loyalty from daily transactions.

Inherent in these related definitions is a reference to a customer interaction. For instance, CX refers to the product (or result) of an interaction – and that interaction, regardless of channel, whether online, over the phone, or face to face, links to the behavior of customer service.

Think of it this way: CX is the product (or result) of the customer service behavior delivered by the service provider or, if automated, the designer of the system. If the customer service quality was stellar (e.g., the hotel reservations agent noted a preference you had expressed during a previous hotel stay at a different location), then the CX was positive. And this positive experience will likely lead to an array of positive outcomes, including: less price sensitivity, future purchases, referrals, and other indicators of customer loyalty.

But customer loyalty is rarely the result of a happy accident. Organizations that consistently delight their customers and enjoy the benefits of lifetime loyalty have finely tuned systems (people and processes) in place to ensure product and service quality.

In fact, each of the above terms is evident in the question that customer-centric organizations are asking themselves daily: How can we develop or improve systems (CEM) that will ensure that employee behavior (customer service) produces (CX) lifetime customer loyalty?

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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